Activision Blizzard Accused of Illegally ‘Withholding and Suppressing Evidence’ by California
Activision Blizzard’s leaders have promised to work to make the company a safe place for women to work. However, California has now accused the company of illegally “withholding and suppressing evidence” and shredding documents that it requested for its investigation.
California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) originally filed the suit in July, which accused the company of creating a frat-like culture where female employees faced “constant sexual harassment” and discrimination.
In a new section of the complaint, the DFEH says Activision Blizzard is encouraging employees to talk to attorneys at the WilmerHale law firm instead of state investigators and then denying the state access to that evidence because the conversations were confidential.
Activision Blizzard had already been criticized by both a company shareholder and the press for hiring WilmerHale, a noted union-busting law firm that reportedly helped Amazon initially defeat its workers’ efforts to organize in Alabama.
The DFEH also claims Activision Blizzard tried to get employees to sign away their ability to speak freely to investigators in waivers, “secret settlements,” and non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), which would require employees to notify Activision Blizzard before disclosing information about incidents covered by the NDA or settlements. They would also decide how much employees could freely say, giving the company the ability to “take all steps it deems to be appropriate to prevent or limit the required disclosure.”
Since the lawsuit has come to light, shareholders have argued that they were “economically damaged” as a result of company executives intentionally withholding information on the sexual harassment lawsuit.
Blizzard president J. Allen Brack has departed the company, leaving Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra to co-lead Blizzard. Activision Blizzard has also confirmed that HR executive, Jesse Meschuk (who had been at the company for 12 years), also left at the start of August.
Activision Blizzard has promised to try to fix its culture after its initial public response was panned by employees, who would later stage a walkout. In a letter to employees published in late July, the company’s CEO promises that “anyone found to have impeded the integrity of our processes for evaluating claims and imposing appropriate consequences will be terminated.”
The allegations in the updated complaint don’t paint a picture of a company working on fixing its culture, though. For its part, an Activision Blizzard spokesperson told IGN that the company didn’t shred any documents, and that it had preserved “information relevant to the DFEH investigation.”